With huge changes in the world, like the collapse of the Soviet empire and the hostility of much of the Muslim world towards the West, understanding the very nature of civilization is more key today than ever. In this, the most monumental study of the history of civilization for several generations, Nicholas Hagger describes them as a response to the spiritual vision of God as Light. This outworking passes into their religions and expresses itself in culture, particularly in buildings. They decline through progressively secularizing stages when their central idea of the Light is lost. Cathedrals, temples, mosques, the "stones", eventually become tourist attractions, like the Pyramids and Stonehenge, as their original meaning diminishes. Unlike Gibbon, Spengler and Toynbee, Hagger focuses on the genesis of civilizations rather than their decline. But he also offers some pointers to the future. The metaphysical vision in our time is being revived, and it could lead to the culminating stage of Western civilization; that of a world government.